Reading comprehension - Upper Intermediate level
On 4th September 2017, precisely 53 years to the day after officially opening the Forth Road Bridge in 1964, Her Majesty the Queen opened the new Queensferry Crossing, one of the most striking engineering icons of the twenty-first century. It is the UK's tallest bridge and the world's longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge. This elegant Scottish bridge spans the wide estuary known as the Firth of Forth, linking the city of Edinburgh with the Scottish county of Fife. The new crossing stands proud alongside its illustrious neighbours, the world famous 19th century Forth Bridge and the more modern Forth Road Bridge.
Addressing the official opening ceremony, Her Majesty the Queen said "The three magnificent structures we see here span three centuries, are all feats of modern engineering and a tribute to the vision and remarkable skill of those who designed and built them."
The original Forth Bridge was built in 1890 and was the first steel bridge and longest cantilever bridge span in the world at the time. Designed by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker, the iconic design of this railway bridge was recognised in 2015 when it was made a UNESCO world heritage site. It currently still carries 190-200 trains per day, linking the villages of South Queensferry and North Queensferry on either side of the Forth. The bridge's characteristic red colour is due to the 3 layers of new glass flake epoxy paint, recently used to restore the structure nearer to its original colour. The repair and repainting project took 400 workers 10 years to complete and cost £130 million. Maintaining the bridge has long been considered one of the world's never-ending jobs and this explains the British habit of likening lengthy tasks to 'painting the Forth Bridge'! However, it is believed that the recent painting cycle which ended in 2011 should last at least two decades.
The Forth Road Bridge, a classic suspension bridge was opened by the Queen in 1964 and replaced the ferries which had been in operation since the 12th century. At the time of construction, it was the longest suspension bridge outside the USA. Although a major feat of engineering at the time, by 2006 the bridge was no longer deemed viable as the long-term main crossing over the Firth of Forth, due to the cabling showing signs of corrosion. Repairs and bad weather led to regular closures and speed restrictions on the old bridge and in 2007 the decision was taken to build a replacement. As a result, construction on the Queensferry Crossing began in 2011.
The recent completion of the Queensferry Crossing is a key addition to Scotland's transport infrastructure which will safeguard and strengthen Scotland's economic prosperity. It will also enable essential maintenance works to be carried out on the existing Forth Road Bridge, which is now to be used by pedestrians, cyclists, emergency services and public transport.
Iconic features of the Queensferry Crossing
Stay Cable Design
One of the most striking features of the new crossing is its overlapping stay cable design. The beautiful cable configuration provides extra stability to the structure, and the Centre Tower in particular, facilitating the slender design of the towers. 23,000 miles of cabling has been used in the making of the bridge, enough to go round the whole globe almost twice! Another feature of the design is that it is possible to replace individual strands within cables on this crossing without needing to close the bridge.
Suspended by these cables 50 metres above high tide, the main deck offers 4 lanes of wind protected traffic, plus a hard shoulder in each direction, to ensure that breakdowns do not cause congestion. Wind shielding 3.3 m high runs along the side of the Queensferry Crossing, thus combating potential bridge closures due to high wind and keeping essential traffic moving. Each of the deck sections was fabricated in China before being shipped to the Forth estuary to be fitted out prior to installation. Incredibly, the new bridge has only 4 expansion joints at the end of each carriageway. This provides a seamless surface across the bridge, meaning that the journey is less interrupted - therefore much smoother and more comfortable for the motorist.
The Centre Tower is 210 metres above high tide which is equivalent to approximately 48 London buses stacked on top of each other. With this as their highest point, the 3 slim towers make the Queensferry Crossing the tallest bridge in the UK, and 60 metres higher than the earlier road bridge towers.
The geology of the Forth estuary is complex and called for different approaches to the foundations of each tower. All foundations bear on the top of the rockbed and this eliminated the need for expensive and time-consuming piling onto the hard rock that underlies the whole crossing.
Setting a new World Record
During the construction phase, the Queensferry Crossing team were successful in establishing the World Record for the longest ever continuous underwater concrete pour . This world record saw concrete poured 24/7 for 15 days at the South Tower. In this time 16,896 m3 of concrete was poured continuously.
The bridge also holds the World Record for being the world's largest free-standing balanced cantilever.
Pedestrian access on the new bridge
Once the new crossing is fully open, there will no longer be pedestrian access to the new bridge but it will be possible to walk across the existing Forth Road Bridge. However, an online ballot was held to select 50,000 people to walk across the new crossing on the weekend of Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 September, before the official opening by the Queen on Monday 4th September. This 'once in a lifetime' opportunity attracted applications from nearly 250,000 people, mainly from Scotland. The first group of the successful ballot winners to make the 1.7 mile (2.7 km) journey set off under blue skies at 9am on Saturday 2nd September led by Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon. Walkers reported a really amazing atmosphere with the lucky winners having the opportunity to take photos, enjoy the views and marvel at the engineering. One young apprentice proudly revealed that three generations of his family had been involved in bridge-building on the Forth.
In addition to this, 10,000 local school pupils and community representatives on both banks of the Forth estuary were also able to walk on the bridge on Tuesday 5th September, the day after the official opening.
The new crossing was then opened to motor traffic on 7th September but with an initial speed limit of 40 mph or (64 kilometres per hour). It can take all traffic across the firth while the Forth Road Bridge closes for transition work. Pedestrians and cyclists will use the old Forth Road Bridge during this time. Once the repair work to the old bridge is completed, the Queensferry Crossing will become a standard motorway with a 70 mph/112 km speed limit, while buses, coaches, learner drivers and motorbikes under 50 cc will join the pedestrians and cyclists on the old bridge.
Ramboll United Kingdom: Queensferry Crossing Available from: http://www.ramboll.co.uk/projects/ruk/queensferry-crossing-northern-europes-largest [25/10/2017]
The Guardian: Pedestrians enjoy 'once in a lifetime' walk over Queensferry Crossing Available from: https://www.the guardian.com/uk-news/2017/sep/02/pedestrians-enjo [31/10/2017]
New Forth Road Bridge breaks records in Scotland - Comprehension questions
1. What makes the Queensferry Crossing one of the most striking engineering icons of the twenty-first century?
2. Explain why British people often use the expression 'It's like painting the Forth Bridge'?
3. Why does the Queensferry Crossing provide such a smooth and comfortable ride for the motorist?
4. How were the people chosen to walk over the new bridge on the weekend before the official opening?
5. When the new bridge re-opened on 7th September 2017 what was the initial speed limit in force?